Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Restoration - Part 1

At the beginning of August, we celebrated our two year anniversary of being in Guatemala. On September 15th, we will celebrate the one year anniversary of launching Redeemer’s House International. I thought it might be a good time to share a few our of restoration stories.
Katarina, Debora and Giovani

In October, we met Katarina, a single mom who struggles to feed, clothe and educate her three children. She was abandoned by her husband when she was expecting her youngest daughter, Debora. She has very little education and work skills. Sometimes she washes laundry or make fresh hot tortillas to sell. Neither of these jobs can adequately provide for her family. She barely earns more than $1 a day.

When she earns that $1, she has to put $0.66 towards her rent. That only leaves $0.44 per day to buy food and basic necessities. What does that $0.66 a day get her? It gets her an 8x8 room, without windows or ventilation, an outdoor kitchen area, a fenced yard for the kids to play, an open well and a latrine. It does not get her running water or electricity. She must buy or scavenge wood for cooking. She borrows water from neighbors or walks to the local municipal water source. It takes time and energy to acquire these basic needs.

She often leaves the children unattended while she works. Their lack of proper supervision leads to some behavioral and educational problems. The lack of hygiene and adequate nutrition causes frequent illnesses, yet they have limited access to medical care or treatment. There are so many things going awry, how do we get started? Where does one begin to help or make a difference?

We begin with caution, discernment, prayer and conversation. We ask about their greatest felt needs. I don’t want to assume that what I see as the greatest needs are the same as what she sees. I don’t want to reinforce the perception of being the all-knowing gringa with power and money, here to rescue her from poverty or from herself. Where is the dignity in that? Sometimes, this is so hard for me. But I have learned I don’t always know what’s best for Katarina and her kids.

For example, when we first visited Katarina’s house, I was plagued by thoughts of her children falling in the open well and drowning. I was determined to do something about making a safer environment for the kids. It was obvious that Katarina was more concerned about other things - like not starving. After we got to know her better, we offered to build a well-cover (Add link here) for her. She was happy to let us do that, but EVERY single time we visited her, the well cover was wide open - which sort of defeats the purpose of building it to keep the kids out. 

I wanted to make a safer environment for Katarina’s kids. Yet my answer to the problem eventually became a literal burden. Katarina decided to move to a different house. That well cover was her property and she wanted to keep it. So, she busted it apart and physically carried it across town to her new house. A short time later, she moved back to her original house. She again carried the boards across town. Of course, now it is useless for anything except firewood and the well remains open. My “solution” to the “problem” didn’t work out like I expected.

Sometimes we want to DO something, we want to take action. I am discovering that what I really need to DO is BE PRESENT - present with Katarina and present with the Lord. I need to listen, wait on the Lord and only sometimes is there an action.

Working with the poor is not easy. I have to remember I am not here to end poverty, although there are times we can alleviate some of the burdens of poverty. I am here to love people because Christ loves them. Sometimes we take a step forward, and then it seems like we take two backwards. The good news is that every step - whether forward or backward - is a learning opportunity. We are learning how to work with the poor, how to be friends with the poor, how to shine the light of Jesus into a dark and hopeless world.

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